Larry Stalbaum’s sensational 2021 season at Saratoga Casino Hotel continued last week when the veteran horseman climbed to the top of the trainer standings in a week in which he scored a pair of series victories to add to his already impressive list of accolades this season. Stalbaum has enjoyed a big last couple of years since becoming a regular at the Spa in 2019. Had there been awards given out last season, there is a good chance Stalbaum would have taken home Horseman of the Year honors. Here in ’21, the 58 year old lifelong horseman has sat third in the driver standings for the majority of the season and appears likely to finish in that spot. The trainer standings, though, has seen a recent surge by Stalbaum who has been in the top five for much of year but following another strong week at the Spa now has Stalbaum sitting atop the list.
Last Sunday afternoon (October 24), Stalbaum got the driving assignment behind three year old Some Deal Hanover in the Gary Kamal Memorial Pacing Series Final. Some Deal Hanover enjoyed some success this summer when racing in the New York Sire Stakes Excelsior A’s and switched to the stable of trainer John Hallett before competing in the $50,000 Excelsior Final. After finishing fourth in the big race, Some Deal Hanover won at Tioga Downs in a start that served as a prep for the Kamal Memorial contested here at Saratoga. With Billy Dobson in the bike, Some Deal Hanover went coast-to-coast in the series’ first leg before making a rare break in the second leg. For Sunday’s $33,800 Final, Some Deal Hanover drew post three and had Stalbaum at the controls. The sophomore made his move first-over approaching the half mile pole and wound up confronting the favored leader before wrestling control away in the stretch. Some Deal Hanover stopped the timer in 1:54.2 in the 7th annual installment of the series to record the biggest win of his young career and add his name to the list of previous winners of the Gary Kamal Memorial which consists of Twin B Spy, Bell I No, Stirling Electra, Carolina Beach, Kiwi Tintin N and Bro.
Stalbaum’s series success didn’t stop there and while he was “just” the catch-driver in the Sunday Final, it was his stable who featured the winner of Monday’s $36,600 Jim Derue Memorial Trot Final. Creemore debuted at the Spa in September and though the new addition to the Stalbaum barn didn’t have a lot of success right away, he thrived when it counted most. The three year old trotter was a beaten favorite in two of his first four local starts and remained winless at the Spa heading into the second leg of the Derue Memorial. After making a break in leg one, Creemore likely needed to win in order to make the Final and despite getting away to a bit of a slow start from his inside post, the sophomore toughed out a first-over trip to secure the victory and punch his ticket to Monday’s Final. The race’s favorite was Pass Key, who is owned, trained and driven by Jordan Derue, son of Jimmy Derue for whom the series was named. Pass Key had his way on the front-end after the series’ lone two-leg winner made a break after the start. All the while, Creemore sat patiently off the pace before Stalbaum got a second-over trip for him. Creemore fanned off his cover at the three-quarter pole and came charging home to reel in Pass Key in the stretch and spring the mild upset in 1:57.4. Creemore paid $11.80 and completed back-to-back wins in series finals for Stalbaum who catch-drove the Kamal Memorial winner and earned the victory in the Derue Memorial as the owner, trainer and driver of Creemore. Pass Key finished second-best while Spotlessreputation earned the show spot. Creemore became the eighth winner of the Derue Memorial, which began in 2013 at Saratoga, to add his name to the list of Jelectric, The Lindy Treaty, Showmeyourguns, Aberforth, Dressed To Impress, Missus Mia Wallace and Certify as Derue Memorial winners.
Stalbaum’s attempt at the clean sweep of the Fall Series’ was thwarted when on Tuesday afternoon his Pursuit Of Speed wound up being scratched off the track due do lameness. After recording a win and a second in the two legs of the Bunny Lake Pacing Series, Pursuit Of Speed was installed as the 5-2 favorite in the morning line for her try in the $35,200 inaugural edition of the series that honors one of the top horses to ever come out of Saratoga. The only mare who prevailed in both legs of the series was North Country and after Pursuit Of Speed got scratched, the Monica Krist-trained filly was the odds-on favorite in Tuesday’s Final. North Country, who parlayed pocket trips to victory in both legs, wound up getting a second-over journey in the Final and powered past her rivals around the final turn before drawing away to win by almost three lengths to kick off the list of winners of the Bunny Lake Pace. Billy Dobson piloted North Country to the series sweep for owner Jeffrey Nanna of Utica.
After a week in which Larry Stalbaum enjoyed series success, the frontrunner to be named Horseman of the Year at the Spa this season surged to the top of the local trainer standings for the first time. Stalbaum enters November’s action with a small two win lead over Melissa Beckwith among local conditioners. While Beckwith is seeking her ninth local training title, Stalbaum is looking for his first trainer’s championship at the Spa. It is a battle worth watching in the final six or seven weeks of the racing season as a red hot Larry Stalbaum continues to further his case to be Horseman of the Year at the Spa for the 2021 campaign.
Live racing takes place every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday afternoons starting at 12 Noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!